Mountain biking is my first love, never been much of a racer, but what the hey let’s give it a go! I am far more comfortable with the long distance, so shoving me into a short, fast paced race was a bit of a shock to the system especially after an 84 mile sportive the day before…not ideal. All the information about this and other similar series are found here at Gorrick Mountain Bike Events
I had done Round 1 of this a few weeks back, entered into the Open female category, just 2 laps (XC racing is short, but fast). The course being only 8km long or something, but packed in a lot. After a chat with the other 4 ladies on the start line we set off. I got into first place and that’s where I stayed, hmm did I miss something, set out too fast or something as I didn’t see them again. I guess I picked the wrong category or the right one, dependant on if you want to win easily or have an actual race! It was however a nice introduction into this style of racing. Categories and start time breakdown quite a few bits to consider!
I had pre-entered into Round 3 (couldn’t get to R2), so I wasn’t going to skip it, but my expectations were low on what I could achieve because of the previous days outing. The disappointing thing about this series and what I’ve found in other races, is that there are only a handful of elite women, and very few at any other level. I’m not sure if fewer women like the pressure of racing (myself included) or just don’t feel they have the fitness or bike competence to enter, but there was about 15 including the elite. Ah well that’s how it is, hopefully in time more will join in the fun! On the line like the previous round all the ladies were coming up with there issues or worries, such as, I’m injured, I’ve not raced in a while. Why do we put ourselves down before we’ve even started. I was the same sharing that I’d done a Sportive the day before. I think it somehow takes any pressure off or expectation yourself or others may have of you. It’s very different for the guys though, no words – it’s race time, don’t show your weakness. We are definitely built differently!
The sun was shining, it was a lush Spring day in the forest. I got there with enough time to do a course recce/warm up, unlike the last round. That’s when I knew I was half empty as I spun up the short yet steep climbs and rolled along the flats, I was going no where fast! It was a very compact 4 mile course that was very twisty, tight turns, soft corners and pedally, that never eased up, not my kind of course at all.
Got back with 20 mins to faff and enjoy the sunshine before the off. It’s nice to see what a range of bikes people were on, the 29er hardtail being very common and made me want to get one too, if this becomes a more regular occurrence…Any who’s it was time to line up with the other ladies, just 3 in our category of Sport women, the next race level up, I could have gone into Master 30, but I would have been on my own, another easy win. I thought I was on my own in this category too, but then 2 ladies rocked up to the start line. I knew Lydia, from a MTB Marathon, complete machine even though she’s at least double my age, complete respect and want to be riding at her level when I’m her age! Experience counts for a load in this sport and I had very little to be honest apart from being able to ride a bike pretty well!
The klaxon went and we were off, the other 2 like rockets down the first straight into the corner, but Jackie dropped her chain so passed her by, little did I know she was also a beast on a bike. It didn’t take her long at all to catch us both up and pass with complete ease. In the first mile there was a couple of climbs with log step ups that caught a lot of riders out, turning it into a quick run, but I managed to get over them (all about momentum). Lydia pulled away again, catching up one of the slower elite women (they set off a minute ahead of us). I turned a corner and found Lydia on the ground, she had gone in too fast and slid off. I made sure she was ok, but we were racing so went passed her! I was pushing too fast for my energy levels, so after the first lap she passed me on the first short climb and I was happy to just stick to my pace. Hmm, maybe I’m not so good at racing after all! I don’t think you’re meant to just let them pass and go ‘Ah, well it was going to happen at some point’! The next lap there was a few more people to pass by, some on a warm up loop others in another category, so a few close calls between trees and riders was interesting.
I still had Lydia in my sights for all of lap 2, but just out of reach and I was simply not able to give any more. Lap 3 came, I’d finally settled into my pace, so I could have then cracked on for a 12 hour race, but that was not on the cards! I knew my position was set so had a bit of fun, nearly coming a cropper on one descent that had a little roller that you could jump, ahem! My skills are not that great at jumping apparently and got bucked onto the front wheel nearly going over the bars, but casually recovered it just before the right hander, foof that was close! It kept me amused as I climbed back up the other side realising that it was nearly over. A few more twists and turns, close shaves with trees on corners and a couple of cheeky roots to slide on, but nothing the Cannonade Habit couldn’t handle (it may not be a race machine, but it is fun!). That was that, it was over, crossed the line about a minute or something behind 2nd. It was a bit of fun and nice to beat a couple of the elite ladies on the way, but they did have an extra lap to go! Here’s my lap times (pretty consistent, but didn’t speed up!):
What I learnt from this race was firstly, don’t go out for a really long and strenuous ride the day before, do a bit of fast paced off road training in preparation, a race style hardtail or short travel 29er needs to be added to my collection and that if I really want to race properly I need to have a bit more fight and urgency to push on and aim to win. The last one would come with time I’m sure, but would it take the fun out of my biking? I’m no where near XC Elite level, but I could definitely get quicker, but that takes time, energy and training. I could just keep bumbling through events and be pleasantly surprised by the outcomes, seems quite fun that way!